Phew!! Many an evangelical just let out a huge sigh of relief following yesterday’s definitive exposé of just how right-of-centre Israel Folau’s church group is. Izzy’s just been outed as totally non-kosher in the orthodox Christian world, so we can all get on with ignoring him.
Many evangelicals have, no doubt, been praising Jesus (and the Father and the Spirit) that Izzy is not only not the Messiah, but that his theology about the actual Messiah keeps him well outside the recognised orthodox camp. He’s a naughty boy indeed. And therefore unworthy of our support.
We can all now breathe a sigh of relief and get back to whatever we were doing four months ago before this whole thing blew up. Right, what was it we were doing four months ago? Preparing God’s people for works of service, that’s right.
Of course the cherry on the cake would have been an Izzy-less Wallabies beating South Africa last night, but they dudded a few almost certain tries and it was game over. Where is a good wingman when you need one? Like a Trinity they seem scarce on the ground.
And who do we have to thank for this definitive take down of Izzy? Why none other than the Sydney Morning Herald which always love a good divide and conquer strategy when it comes to Christianity.
When Scott Morrison become Prime Minister the Herald was there, breathlessly reporting on how ScoMo belonged to wacky Pentecostalism where people “spoke in tongues”, and emphasised being “born again”. You know, crazy stuff. like that Why would we even let the guy lead the country with views as outlandish as that?
And Hillsong? It’s all about money right? Exposé after exposé about the power grab. But suddenly poor old ScoMo and Brian Houston are in the same hell-bound handcart as all those others on Izzy’s hitlist.
The Herald is now the sensible, settled voice telling us like it is. It’s a veritable heresy-ometer, picking up the toxic tones among Izzy’s crowd and selling it back to us on the front page. The Herald has done the hard yards for us, and given evangelicals who have had problems with Izzy’s approach a great big out.
So the sensible thing for evangelicals to do now is to let Izzy swing in the breeze, isn’t it? Cos that’s what the Herald is testing us on. The orthodox Christians should rightly abandon him and not even pretend he is one of theirs, right? If this doesn’t shut us up for good, then what will?
Tom Richards made a telling comment in Eternity magazine today in a nicely weighted theological article that discussed the heresy of modalism that Izzy’s crowd appears to have lapsed into. Richards did not give Izzy much wiggle room for his theology and rightly so. You can read the whole article here, it’s worth it.
But Tom goes on to say why we should support Izzy:
Folau is not being persecuted for the beliefs that we don’t share with him, but specifically for those that we do share. While many of us might have preferred that Izzy present his views more graciously, we should agree that the Bible condemns drunkenness, homosexual sex, extra-marital sex, adultery, lying, theft, unbelief, and worship of idols and that hell awaits those who do not repent in response to God’s gracious offer of forgiveness. Silencing Izzy on this silences trinitarian Christians as well.
But not yet Tom, not yet. Or as Winston Churchill noted, an appeaser is someone who will throw you to the alligators in the hope that they themselves will be eaten last. If you don’t think the alligator of the Sexular Culture has a large enough appetite to keep on eating until it gets to you, then you’re in for a shock.
And the secular orthodox crowd to which the Herald preaches? Well they were never even going to support him on freedom of speech either, so it’s Izzy and his whole crowd of 30 crazies against everyone. See Izzy swing everyone? This thing’s over baby. Let’s keep our distance.
Perhaps there’s a touch of cowardice about all of that. And a touch of schadenfreude directed towards those rather gauche Australian Christian Lobby types. I wonder if there’s a touch of church class warfare going on here?
And there’s a touch of “industrial deafness” too. Once again, as per my blog post a few weeks ago, many theological commentators appear to have zero skin in the workplace game; the very place where our people find the most pressure to conform. That blog post resulted in a huge number of comments (private comments) from workers who struggle with the increased hostility at work, but who stay off Facebook in case their bosses – or their ministers – ever find out. That’s a fairly discouraging assessment of the church’s ability to prepare its people for the world.
Yet maybe it’s not blindness. I was convinced it was until one ex-minister told me that the constant prayer request from city workers in his church was for wisdom to know what to do when they kept failing to meet the social agenda KPIs their woke firm had included in their job description. It wasn’t about being a “jerk at work” – it was about their silence being equated with hostility. And no one wants a hostile workforce these days.
In other words, ministers might not be blind, they might just not know what to do. They know what’s going on, but have either got zero experience or limited theological nous to help their people navigate all of this. We’ve got some work to do as a theological community to help our people navigate what is a rapidly changing setting.
As my ex-minister friend said: Fail to reach those social agenda targets year after year, and you’re going to get hauled up to HR for answers. Keeping your head down is no longer an option. So silence becomes the option. Meanwhile church is telling them to get out there in the real world and share the gospel. “After you” might be a good response.
So Izzy’s done and dusted. Or Izzy? Because as we’ve seen over the past four months, nothing’s as easy as one, two, three.